Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

How do I know if this is burnout?

Or, is burnout just the wages of capitalism?

Hanna Brooks Olsen
11 min readOct 19, 2023


A couple of weeks ago, I heard a podcast host describe his decision to leave his high-paced tech job because he was “burned out.” Then, at a conference last week, I listened as two mangers had a conversation about avoiding burnout on their team. I also saw a magazine with a cover story about burnout recently.

Hearing about burnout isn’t new — I’m pretty sure people have been writing about it since the first person suddenly had enough paid time off to take some time away from work, return, look around, and think “wow, I hate this.” And it was a huge topic in the halcyon, post-recession, Obama-era days of tech startups and bouncing back. When work was the answer and also the problem.

But it’s been coming up a lot more again lately, which has made it harder for me to do what I’ve historically done, which is largely ignored the discourse around burnout. Because, honestly, it sounded mostly like the purview of tech bros who worked a little too hard and now they’re going to take their golden parachutes and play even harder. Burnout has always struck me as a kind of affluenza — like something that mostly impacts the wealthy because they’re the only ones with the privilege to categorize it and act on it.